Big Clamp [B21]
The Big Clamp as always is a viable weapon for those just looking to play chess. In McShane - Van Wely we see the perfect case for this opening - the superstrong amateur against the consummate professional. After 1.e4 c5 2.d3 g6 3.f4 Bg7 4.Nf3 d5 5.Be2 Nc6 6.0-0 Nf6 7.e5 Ng4 8.c3 d4:
White played 9.Ng5!, fighting for the initiative.
2.c3 Sicilian [B22]
One problem for Black in the 2.c3 Sicilian is generating winning chances while avoiding too much risk. I have often thought of 2.c3 as the 'Catalan of 1.e4 openings'. In N.Getz - Malakhov Black plays a normal theoretical line with 1.e4 c5 2.c3 Nf6 3.e5 Nd5 4.Bc4 Nb6 5.Bb3 d5 6.exd6 Qxd6 7.Nf3 Nc6 8.0-0 Be6, but after the solid 9.Re1 he has so much trouble generating winning chances that he ends up in a lost position against his opponent who is rated 350 points less.
A better try in the main line for Black where White delays the advance of his d-pawn is Ivanchuk's 1.e4 c5 2.c3 Nf6 3.e5 Nd5 4.Nf3 Nc6 5.Bc4 Nb6 6.Bb3 c4 7.Bc2 Qc7 8.Qe2 g5:
In Howell - Van Wely we see a new idea from Black in 9.h3 Bg7 10.0-0 Nxe5 11.Nxg5 h6 12.Nf3 d5 13.a4 0-0!? This may be okay if followed up correctly, but it is Black who goes astray here. Sometimes Black gets cut by the wrong side of the 'double-edged' blade.
One idea for Black that continues to be played by good players is 1.e4 c5 2.c3 Nf6 3.e5 Nd5 4.d4 cxd4 5.Nf3 Nc6 6.cxd4 d6 7.Bc4 Nb6 8.Bb3 d5!? which avoids the complications of 8...dxe5 which are generally well studied by White. See Montes de Oca - Fier.
Grand Prix Attack [B23]
In Jones - Van Wely (I am not trying to pick on Van Wely!) we look at an original idea. White loses a tempo by playing 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 d6 3.f4 g6 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Bb5+ Bd7 6.Bc4!?:
This looks strange, but it definitely has its points. Jones throws everything at Van Wely, but Black defends coolly and reaches a winning ending, but only for a moment...
Modern Grand Prix
In the line 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nd4 4.Bc4 e6 5.Nge2 Nf6 6.0-0 a6 7.a4 Nxe4!? has been considered somewhat a 'secret equalizer' for awhile now. Anti-Sicilian specialist Sergey Tiviakov has his own ideas, and one of them is 8.Nxe4 d5 9.d3!?:
In Tiviakov - Moiseenko it only takes a little mistake for Black to drift into a passive position. Tiviakov wins an instructive strategic game in the style of Petrosian, complete with king march.
Hybrid Variation [B51]
The move 7.Ba4 has become the main line of the Hybrid Variation, replacing both the speculative 7.Bxc6 and the common 7.Bf1. This month we have two new games featuring fresh ideas after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+ Nc6 4.0-0 Bd7 5.Re1 Nf6 6.c3 a6 7.Ba4 b5 8.Bc2 Bg4 9.a4:
The first features the long line 9...Rb8 10.axb5 axb5 11.d4 cxd4 12.cxd4 e5 13.d5 Nd4. Black has had some troubles here, but the new 14.Bd3 probably will not add to them. See Motylev - Frolyanov.
In Ni Hua - Khusnutdinov Black tried to sidestep this line with 9...g6!? which looks risky, but playable. In this game the gamble pays off and Black scores a notable upset.
Until next month, David